Comment - Will Celtic Cider Ban Strip Shirt From C&C Group's Back?
C&C started sponsoring Celtic through its Magners brand last year
It's only been a matter of weeks since the FIFA World Cup ended, but already it seems that the goals, the glories and the glut of tournament-themed advertising are fading in the memory.
Well, no matter, because as if to remind us that football - and football sponsorship - is not just a once-every-four-years phenomenon we have today's story that Scottish football club Celtic will have to change its kit for a match in Warsaw tonight because of Poland's strict laws on alcohol branding.
Sponsor C&C Group, whose Magners brand is the victim, claims not to be happy and has branded the laws a breach of its human rights. The company has been further angered because while cider brands are prohibited in sports stadiums under Poland's generally all-encompassing alcohol advertising ban, beer is not. This “protect the interests of local beer brands” over competitors, C&C said.
What's strange about this argument is that this very loophole has allowed C&C Group to replace its Magners logo on tonight's Celtic strip for its Tennent's beer one, thus giving another member of its portfolio a share of the spotlight. Could C&C be manufacturing some scorn in a bid to get some free publicity?
Perhaps so. However, that way of thinking doesn't take into account the international plans C&C had for Magners when it signed its sponsorship deal with Celtic at the beginning of last year.
Speaking to an executive from C&C Group about the sponsorship deal last year, I asked what it said about the company's ambitions for the brand in Scotland. But I was naïve to assume this had anything to do with the domestic market. It was all to do with international consumers, specifically those in emerging markets who watch the Champion's League, the tournament Celtic take part in tonight.
Celtic dominates its national league and the club is virtually guaranteed a qualifying place in the Champion's League. Sometimes the club makes it through to the money-spinning later stages, in which it can play at least six matches against some of Europe's biggest teams. Now and again, Celtic beats one of these sides.
This is what C&C Group was chasing when it signed Magners up with the club. When Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 in November 2012, highlights of the match went around the world.
Unfortunately, football doesn't always happen the way you want it to. In the three seasons from 2009-2011 Celtic didn't make it past its Champion's League qualifying stages.
Tonight, Celtic go into the first-leg game against Legia Warsaw as favourites to go through. However, if they don't then they will be out of the Champion's League with only the relative obscurity of the Europa League for the rest of the season.
There is a danger, therefore, that tonight will be the highest profile game Celtic will play in the Champions League this year. So for C&C to get its money's worth, the group might see it as imperative that Magners is front and centre on the Celtic jersey, and not the far less scalable Tennent's, which only has a foothold in Scotland and a few other regions of Europe.
Instead, like a German defender repelling a determined Argentinian forward line, Poland's anti-alcohol laws have blocked that from happening.
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